All hail kale—the green superfood

Close Up Of Woman With Kale On Fork

Image: HighwayStarz/Bigstock.com

Kale is a popular health food these days, however, it can also be the butt of many jokes or the subject of trending memes on social media. If you’re trying to improve your diet and health, but also turn up your nose at the thought of a kale salad, here’s why you should give kale a second chance.

KALE?

First things first. If you’re new to the world of kale and would have difficulty picking it out of a lineup, this is what you’re looking for. Kale is a dark leafy green vegetable akin to cabbage, identifiable by its iconic ruffled curly leaves. In Australia, there are two types of kale on the market: curly kale and Tuscan kale (also known as cavolo nero or ‘black cabbage’).

WHERE CAN I BUY IT?

A popular crop for farmers, this nutritious goldmine can often be found at farmers markets. However, with its large following amongst health fanatics, kale can easily be sourced from local supermarkets and greengrocers. It’s becoming more mainstream by the minute!

If you have a green thumb, you might even like to try growing kale yourself. It’s best to plant kale so that it matures and is ready to be picked when the weather gets cold. That means you can begin planting as early as the end of November!

THE HEALTH BENEFITS

Kale is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms of Brassica oleracea. And, like other members of the brassica family, kale has impressive health benefits. This powerhouse veggie is a rich source of dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, such as polyphenols, carotenoids and phenolic acids, with the potential to reduce cardiovascular risk and protect against certain cancers.

Hail kale for its immuno-stimulatory effect! A 2011 study has shown impressive results whereby antibody production was quadrupled with just a billionth of a gram of kale protein per litre (just slightly less than half a teaspoon of kale). And when cooked, these effects were even better!

Hail kale for its heart health benefits! We know LDL cholesterol is bad, but oxidised LDL is even worse. When it comes to keeping blood pressure under control and lowering cholesterol it’s the oxidation of LDL cholesterol you need to avoid. Following a plant-based diet helps to build up defences against oxidation (namely antioxidants).

Looking at kale specifically, it has an impressive antioxidant capacity that definitely earns it the title of ‘superfood’. In a study published in the Journal of Functional Foods, a daily portion (300g) of kale significantly increased plasma lutein and beta-carotene levels as well as total antioxidants in just two weeks!

Researchers also found significant reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in that time. Did someone say superfood?

THE TRICK TO BECOMING A KALE LOVER

If you’re thinking, ‘Yes OK, kale sounds great. But it’s so bitter! It’s the last thing I want to see on my plate,’ then this little trick will convert you for life.

Prepare bitter greens like kale by massaging the leaves with a good amount of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. The acidity cuts right through the bitterness and enhances the flavour! You’ll be hailing kale in no time!

5 EASY WAYS TO EAT MORE KALE

  • Tear the leaves into a delicious salad (you can even purchase pre-prepared leaves from the supermarket)
  • Blend kale leaves into a green juice with celery, cucumber and an apple for sweetness
  • Wilt leaves into soups for a splash of colour
  • Melt frozen kale into omelettes, sauces and stir-frys
  • Team greens with beans in true Mediterranean style e.g. kale and chickpeas with plenty of garlic and extra virgin olive oil

Sue Radd is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and one of Australia’s leading nutritionists and health communicators. Her most recent book Food as Medicine: Eating for Your Best Health received the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Health and Nutrition Book in the world for 2016.

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Category: Physical Health

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